Atlanta Hawks Josh Smith reacts during the final moments of the fourth quarter of Game 6 of their NBA Eastern Conference playoff basketball series against the Boston Celtics in Boston

Are the Rockets in the market for Josh Smith? Maybe not quite yet.


Trade speculation surrounding Josh Smith is in full swing. The Brooklyn Nets and San Antonio Spurs have been reported as potential landing spots, but there may not be a more attractive trading partner for the Hawks given their rebuilding process than the Houston Rockets. Despite lacking a “big name” who can be moved, Houston has a ton of productive players on cheap, rookie deals. There are guys we haven’t even really seen like Terrence Jones or Donatas Motiejunas who are intriguing prospects, and there are useful pieces like Patrick Patterson and Greg Smith.

But while a potential deal with Houston would make sense for Atlanta, it may not make sense for Houston. The Rockets have max cap room heading into this offseason, so sacrificing multiple assets to acquire a guy who will be a free agent in a few months may be a waste. Here’s Daryl Morey explaining Houston’s situation to Sam Amick of USA Today:

“The Rockets — who signed point guard Jeremy Lin in the summer and traded for Oklahoma City’s James Harden in late October — are on the lookout for another star and have enough salary cap space this summer to add a maximum-salary free agent. At the moment, that appears to be their path of choice.

“Most likely, it’s not going to be through trade,” Morey told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday. “Most likely, it’s going to be through the use of our cap room where we have max room this summer.

“I think (the time between now and the deadline) is going to be quiet. Of course a year ago, if you would’ve said, ‘James Harden – what about him?’ I would’ve said, ‘No way. They won’t trade him.’ You never know. You stay opportunistic. But I would guess that this trade deadline is going to be quiet.”

Via Sam Amick | USA Today

This is what Morey should say. The Rockets would have to combine quite a few salaries to match for a guy like Smith right now, and despite their playoff push, there really shouldn’t be a rush to contend. The financial situation is great, they have an incredibly young core, and they have a true star in James Harden.

With that said, it’s Harden who now shares some of the recruiting responsibility with Morey.

Asked if he had a specific player he wanted to join forces with, Harden — who doesn’t have off-court relationships with any of the players mentioned — says he’s not sure just yet.

“I don’t, and if I did have a guy I’d be texting him every single day,” he told USA TODAY Sports in a recent interview. “Dwight, Chris Paul, Bynum, all of them. I haven’t come across them. I’m more low-key.”

Low-key probably works for Houston right now. They’ll be hosting the All-Star game this weekend, so everyone will get a taste of what life in Houston is like. They’re contending ahead of schedule, true, but many a franchise has been wrecked by pushing the chips to the center of the table too quickly. Josh Smith does fit with what Houston wants to do, but patience may be the most valuable asset the Rockets can utilize at the trade deadline this year.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.